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Chef Sommelier Takehiro NOBUKUNI, 38, had worked in Bistrot du Sommelier, Guy Savoy and La Tour d'Argent n Paris. He is also a committee member of the Japan Sommelier Association.

The Loire Valley inspired Chateau Robuchon is in Yebisu Garden, Tokyo, a hub of skyscrapers compromising offices and condominiums, cafes, shops and restaurants (there's also a Westin Hotel here).

Story And Photos By Ch'ng Poh Tiong

The Chef Sommelier of Japan's most architecturally unique restaurant, Chateau Robuchon, is Takehiro NOBUKUNI.

In 2001, Nobukini travelled to France and worked in the Parisian restaurant Bistrot du Sommelier. There, he trained under proprietor Philippe FAURE-BRAC who was crowned Meilleur  Sommelier du Monde 1992" or "World's best Sommelier 1992".  Prior to going to Paris, Nobukini was Chef Sommelier at the "Fontana" restaurant at the former Daiichi Hotel Tokyo Bay (now, the Hotel Okura Tokyo Bay).

While in France, the young Japanese also chalked up invaluable experience at Guy Savoy and La Tour d'Argent, two of that city's most well-known restaurants. With the French language and an impressive curriculum vitae under his belt, Takehiro Nobukuni returned to Japan in 2004 and was made sommelier at the Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon. In 2008, he was promoted to Chef Sommelier.

"Previously, our clientele was 95% Japanese and only 5% tourists. Since 2007, when the Michelin Guide Tokyo first came out and we were awarded three stars, tourists now account for between 25 and 30% of the guests. As for the wine list, 99% percent is French, with the lion share of 18 pages (out of a total 71) devoted to white and red Bordeaux."

"In fact, 80% of what our customers drink is Bordeaux and Burgundy. Ten percent goes to champagne, with the remainder shared between the rest of France and one page of wines from other parts of the world (four Australian; three California; two Italian; two Spanish; and, two Japanese). We have 25,000 bottles of wine. I want to introduce other French regions to my customers."

In that regard, Takehiro Nobukuni is particularly fond of the Rhone Valley (10 pages on the wine list), attributing his love for the wines to having worked at Bistrot du Sommelier as Faure-Brac hails from Marseilles, the southern French port city not far from the Rhone.

Takehiro Nobukini is also a committee member of the Japan Sommelier Association for the Kanto Area Division.

Chateau Robuchon
Yebisu Garden Place 1-13-1
Mita, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0062
Tel: (81) (3) 54 24 13 47

All Rights Reserved · The Wine Review · 2013